Monday, September 14, 2015

Mystara Monday: Module B3 - Palace of the Silver Princess

This week we continue our look at the B series of adventure modules with the infamous module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess, published in 1981. There are actually two versions of this module although very few physical copies of the original version, which can be recognized by its orange cover, exist. A few years back though, Wizards of the Coast decided to make that original version freely available in digital form on their website. Wizards no longer hosts a copy but plenty of other locations on the internet do.

What I have here, however, is the second version, which credits both Tom Moldvay and Jean Wells as writers. Stories differ as to why the original edition was immediately recalled, but blame is usually placed on both the quality of the adventure itself, disturbing elements regarding a couple of the new monsters presented in the adventure, and 'questionable art'. One of those disturbing monsters is the decapus, shown above on the cover of the adventure. In the second version of the adventure it's simply a sort of forest dwelling tree-octopus. In the original version, however, it's capable of producing an illusion of itself as a beautiful woman being taunted by nine ugly men.

Whatever the reason for the recall, Tom Moldvay heavily rewrote the module to create the version that was eventually released. Where the original was a typical for the time delve into a castle simply to hunt treasure, the new version had the adventurers summoned shortly after the castle has fallen victim to some sort of curse so that they can try to break the curse and rescue the eponymous Silver Princess.

According to the backstory a giant ruby was recently found by dwarves while mining, and they presented it to the princess as a gift. Shortly thereafter, the entire palace was imprisioned within a ruby glow, and the valley over which the princess ruled was struck with disease and decay. The players are tasked with entering the palace and finding a way to save the kingdom. The ruby, it turns out, is linked to an evil extradimensional being called Arik and is being used by him to forge a passage between dimensions. Arik's power has driven some of the palace's residents insane, attracted many monsters, and imprisoned the princess within the ruby.

The adventure itself is presented in three parts. The first is a 'programmed adventure' intended to introduce new dungeon masters and players to the game. It's basically a choose your own adventure covering the first few rooms of the palace. Past that, the module shifts to a more typical room by room breakdown of a two level dungeon. Like a lot of early dungeon crawls, the monsters and rooms seem kind of random, with little connecting one room to the next. White apes in the jail cells? Three foot long cobra in the linen closet? Why? Who knows? Don't question it, just kill them and take the treasure they're guarding.

Also, there's a guy named Travis. He's a real jerk.
That said, there are some memorable rooms and encounters like a bathroom with magic gems to fill the bathtub, a garden overgrown with carnivorous plants, and a pair of thieves who got caught in the palace when the curse befell it and just want to steal what they can and get out. The backstory of the module also alludes to a heroic order of dragon riding knights that could be used in further adventures or as a group the party might attempt to ally with or join in the future.

Palace of the Silver Princess is a step forward in the evolution of the D&D adventure module; it provides a reason beyond pure greed for the player characters to be adventuring and presents a goal beyond simply killing all the monsters and taking their loot. We've still got a ways to go before we see modules that truly tell a story though. That said, at the age of 10 I thought it was pretty great. It was probably my second favorite of the B modules, behind Rahasia.

Next week we continue with a look at module B4: The Lost City. Join me for drug addled mask wearing pyramid dwellers, an evil cthulhoid monstrosity, and invisible snakes.


  1. The version in "B1-9 In Search of Adventure" is different from both of the first two in a lot of ways major and minor, IIRC. Same maps and some of the same backstory and some of the same character names.

    I might be thinking of Rakhasia though.

    1. They made a few changes to fit the adventure into the Grand Duchy and have it link up better with the other adventures in the anthology. For instance, instead of being summoned by faerie-like 'Protectors', the adventurers are treated to the manifestation of an Immortal who serves as the valley's protector.